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Choosing the Right Wood Heater

April 06, 2017
Choosing the Right Wood Heater

Nothing beats a real wood fire on a cold winter’s day.

The ambience and interaction created by the crackle of a burning log, while sipping a hot chocolate (or red wine) is pretty hard to beat!

Wood heaters have been increasing in popularity with the advances in technology making them more efficient and more stylish, with many sleek contemporary designs becoming a major feature in new homes.

In this article we'll cover:

Different types of wood heaters

Space Heaters

Wood heaters are generally defined as ‘space heaters’, meaning that they heat a space directly and offer a higher level of out-put than other types of fireplaces. All wood fires heat well. They have the ability to heat 80-400+sqm

Radiant Wood Heaters

Some wood heater models are purely ‘radiant’ which means they are able to radiate heat out at a steady rate. Others can utilise a fan to push the heat out faster. When evaluating which model is right for you, the Australian Home Heating Association suggests the “You should also consider your personal heating needs as wood heaters provide heat in several ways and it’s important to get it right for your home".

They are available in a wide range of models that vary in output from small units intended to heat a single room to very large units with the capacity to heat larger homes. When selecting a wood heater ensure you consider your home’s design, insulation levels and the length of time the heater is to be operated – these are all questions that can be answered by your local AHHA member.”

Freestanding Wood Heaters

Freestanding radiant wood heaters transfer about one third of their heat output by convection and about to two thirds by radiation. Radiated heat will warm the surface of objects such as floors, ceilings, furniture, walls and people that face the wood heater. These heaters operate by sending their heat out in all directions and have very hot surface temperatures.

Freestanding convection wood heaters distribute their heat by convective currents and transfers and about one third by radiation. They have a ventilated casing around the firebox. This is either metal or tiled. In some instances, the convective air flow is increased by the use of in-built electric fans.

Slow Combustion Fireplace Insert

Fireplace inserts are wood heaters specifically designed for installation within a masonry fireplace. Inserts are commonly used to convert open brick fireplaces, which are usually unable to produce sufficient heat. This type of conversion ensures that most of the heat is delivered to the room instead of being trapped in the masonry structure, or wasted through the chimney.

Wood Burning Fireplace

Also referred to as a 'Solid Fuel' Fireplace, a wood burning fireplace is what you think of as an open fireplace. They are a low tech option – they are an integral part of your home’s construction, chimney with the built out of stone or brick. To improve their efficiency you can add an insert.

Wood Burner Fireplace

Most Efficient Wood Heater

All wood heaters sold in Australia need to be compliant with the Clean Air Emissions regulations, which mean they have achieved an acceptable efficiency rating. Optimising the efficiency of your wood heater above these minimum standards depends to a large degree on how you use it.

Tips for using your Wood Heater Efficiently

The AHHA’s top tips for the proper use of wood heaters are:

  1. Firelighters, kindling wood and paper should be used to get the fire started. Larger pieces of wood should only be added after a hot bed of coals has been established.

  2. A wood heater will burn better with three or four smaller logs rather than one or two large ones.

  3. Leave air controls open for at least 15-20 minutes to start the fire burning and when re-loading.

  4. Remember that a little air supply overnight avoids a lot of smoke. Don’t close the air supply totally overnight.

  5. Allow enough fresh air for efficient combustion, while at the same time closing doors and curtains in your house to conserve heat. Getting the balance right is important.

  6. Ensure your heater is properly installed by someone qualified to do so and that it is the right size for its intended purpose.

  7. Have your wood heater serviced each year in spring or early summer.

“Never use petrol, kerosene or oil to start the fire. You should only burn dry, well-seasoned hardwood from a reputable supplier,” Mrs Brown said. If your wood heater is maintained, used efficiently and of a good quality, it can last you between 20 and 30 years.


If you are considering a wood heater for your home, then you need to know about firewood, as that is going to be the major influence on the efficiency and cost of running your wood heater.

  • Cost of Firewood – it’s tricky to calculate but the average tonne of wood retails for approximately $380 – the more you can buy in bulk and store the better.
  • When purchasing firewood, check if the seller obtains their wood from registered firewood cutters.
  • Don’t burn green wood and only burn dried hardwood as this will cut down on the amount of smoke produced. Wood needs to be seasoned, which takes time. Burning unseasoned wood is not only less efficient, it can result in a build-up of creosote in the flue or chimney, which could catch alight.
  • Wood is a bulky fuel, which means you need to think about how you are going to transport it, and where you are going to store it.
  • Wood needs to be stored in a dry place and shouldn’t be stored against the house, as it can become a fire hazard and a home for rodents and termites
  • Wood can create mess both before and after burning.
  • Your flue or chimney will need to be regularly cleaned (so that it works efficiently and doesn’t become a fire hazard).

Clean Air Regulations for Wood Heaters

AHHA General Manager Demi Brown is reminding consumers considering buying a wood heater that it should display a compliance plate that certifies it meets Australian emissions standards. “These models are tested and approved to meet Australia’s tough standards,” Mrs Brown said. Burning wood for warmth is satisfying – it takes a little extra effort, yes, but like tending a garden or cooking a meal, you are always rewarded.

The best way to get the most out of your heater is to be responsible – correctly operating your heater is just as important as installing a wood heater that meets the Australian Standard for wood heater emissions.”

Firewood Storage

Firewood Holders

A wood heater also offers an opportunity to get creative with firewood storage. Firewood is a beautiful natural element to have on display in the home that has a beautiful scent and there many creative ways to display it. Firewood can be tightly stacked in recessed wall niches beside the fireplace or kept in storage baskets or holders. There are many striking storage options available that are both artful and functional.

For more wood burning fireplace design ideas explore our range from retailers around Australia –the perfect fireplace is waiting to be found!

If you would like to learn about other types of fireplaces please visit our article on how to choose a Gas Fireplace.

Thankyou to Demi Brown, who heads the AHHA, the peak industry body representing the manufacturing, retailing and installation, maintenance and firewood sectors of the wood heating industry throughout the country.

We hope you found this article helpful. If you are ready to start building your wishlist of products, then be sure and check out our fireplace products range.

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